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IN PRACTICE


without developing effective self-assessment skills. If teachers involve their students in the creation of checklists or rubrics that will be used to assess their assignments and regularly require students to assess themselves, it is a win-win situation for teachers and students.


QUESTION 3: How do the time and resources required for me to enact this practice relate to the short and long term benefits for my students and me? As a beginning teacher, one of the authors could often be found standing in front of the die- cut and laminating machines in the teacher workroom. The novelty of creating materials to use in the classroom was still fresh, and they all seemed to be so essential. As time wore on, the practice of spending evening hours cutting out laminated vocabulary word sets gave way to spending hours developing elaborate student projects and eventually to spending hours grading papers that barely received a glance from students when they were returned to them. In retrospect, a great deal of time was spent on tasks that had few short- or long- term benefits for anyone. The vocabulary word sets, though lovely, were generally used once or twice before classes moved on to new sets of words. When the school division adopted new textbooks the following year, the word sets were no longer helpful. Due to a lack of clear expectations and the absence of a rubric, the teacher ended up spending more time designing the elaborate projects than the students actually did completing them. And many of us are familiar with the frustration of students shoving returned papers into their folders and backpacks without reviewing the carefully crafted feedback we have provided for them.


The work of teaching is demanding, and the cumulative importance of our work cannot be overstated. We facilitate student learning, after all! Yet it is all too easy to spend our time and energy on tasks that don’t reap the most significant benefits for our students or for ourselves. When determining whether a particular practice is personally sustainable, it is important to assess not only the amount of time and energy it will take to develop and implement it, but also whether the expected payoffs will be worthwhile. This question of the relationship between time and energy expenditures and the anticipated benefits is perhaps at the crux of sustainable teaching, because it forces us to evaluate how efficiently we are spending the time and energy we have. If we want to work smarter, not harder, we need to adopt a mindset that leads us to minimize the time and energy we spend on nonessential tasks.


What are some ways we can go about best utilizing our time and energy for worthwhile pursuits in our teaching? In the realm of planning, we have heard it suggested that teachers should adopt a 1:1 approach, meaning that no more than one minute of planning time is spent for each minute of class time. While this is an easy rule of thumb to remember, it may not always fit our teaching contexts. When we have to teach new or unfamiliar content, planning may require more of our time and energy to be able to teach effectively. In such


Spring 2011 Vol. 8 No. 1 Virginia Educational Leadership 45


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